Long Insurance Services of Kernersville, NC


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All posts by Monte Long

Neighbors Tree Falls

What Happens If My Neighbor’s Tree Falls in My Yard?

Trees can be tricky, but for the most part homeowners are responsible for what falls into their own yard. So if a storm causes your neighbor’s tree to fall in your yard, your homeowners insurance could help cover the cost of removing the tree and remedying the damage it caused on your property, after your deductible.

The same is true in reverse: If a tree on your property falls in your neighbor’s yard, your neighbor should contact his or her insurance company to determine what type of coverage is available for damage or cleanup in their yard.

In most cases, neighbors are able to work things out without too much trouble. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to file a homeowners insurance claim. Your homeowners insurance may or may not cover the cost of tree cleanup, depending on your policy and the company you work with.

Good news: Homeowners insurance from ERIE typically pays for the cost (subject to sublimits) of removal of fallen trees if it’s due to a covered peril, such as a storm.

If there’s ever an issue between neighbors, you can rely on your claims adjuster to help straighten everything out.

THE CLAIMS PROCESS

If a tree falls on your house, the first thing to do, if it’s safe, is to try to prevent further damage to your home and property. Make sure to take some photos to document what happened. Then call your insurance agent, who can explain your options and help you understand if and how to file a claim. When you file a claim, a claims adjuster will come by to evaluate the damage and explain how your homeowners coverage comes into play. It’s recommended that you call your claims adjuster before you contract to have the tree removed.

Sometimes trees fall on cars. If it’s not safe or possible to remove the tree from the car yourself, you should call a professional to remove it. (Again, talk to your insurance agent and a claims adjuster first and take a few photos of the fallen tree on your car.) Depending on the damage and terms of your insurance coverage, the optional comprehensive coverage you may have under your auto policy could provide coverage for the loss.

PREVENTING TREE DAMAGE

Preventive measures matter when it comes to trees. Start by looking for signs of distress such as dead limbs, cracks in the trunk or major limbs, leaning to one side and branches that are close to a house or power line. Mushroom growth on the roots or bark can also signal trouble.

Homeowners should be concerned about the health of their trees. It’s possible for you to be held responsible for resulting damage to your neighbor’s house or property, if your tree falls due (in whole or part) to your own neglect. One of the best things to do is to regularly have large trees trimmed. (The Tree Care Industry Association lists accredited tree care professionals.)

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Getting Married

6 Smart Insurance Questions for Newlyweds

So you’ve tied the knot – or at least are starting to prepare for the big day. This major life step often leads to plans to buy a house or upgrade your apartment so there’s enough room for the two of you…  and perhaps some future bundles of joy.

Amid the whirlwind of excitement and change, insurance may not be top of mind as you’re mapping out your new life together. But making some smart decisions now can help ensure sure you are well protected and positioned to thrive into the future.

Here are six smart questions to discuss with your insurance agent.

6 QUESTIONS TO ASK AN INSURANCE AGENT IN YOUR 20’S AND 30’S

1. We’re getting married. Should we wed our auto insurance as well?

If one of you has a Mad Max-like driving history, then auto insurance might be one of those things you don’t merge once married. But if you and your spouse both have good driving records and no recent gaps in insurance coverage, you might save money by combining policies.

For a few more dollars a month, you can add ERIE Auto Plus, which includes features such as additional days of transportation expense coverage1 and waived deductible in certain situations that make ERIE’s great auto coverage even better.

2. We’re hunting for our first house – should homeowners insurance weigh into what we buy?

In the excitement of finding that first home, some buyers forget to consider the cost of homeowners insurance, and how different locations and types of homes might impact it. According to Realtor.com, the average annual cost for homeowners insurance is $952. However, factors such as distance from a fire department, proximity to storm-prone coastal areas, age of the home and your claims history can play a role in what it ultimately costs to insure a particular house.

A conversation with your ERIE agent as you start your search can give you a better perspective on potential costs and how they may impact what you can afford.

3. We’re having a baby. Should we get life insurance?

A new baby brings new responsibilities – and new expenses. Life insurance can help make sure that if an untimely death occurs, the surviving spouse can handle those responsibilities and costs without interruption.

Life insurance pays money to a chosen beneficiary — a spouse or co-parent, for example — when the insured person dies. In the short term, you can use the life insurance proceeds to pay for funeral expenses. Over time, it can help pay the mortgage and fund your child’s education.

These 8 tips for first-time life insurance buyers provide useful information to get you started.

4. Term or whole life?

So you’ve resolved to get life insurance. Now you face a new question: What kind?

  • Term life: Term life insurance provides coverage for a specific number of years (such as a 30-year policy to sync up with your new 30-year mortgage). For young people starting out, term is often the easiest, most affordable option.
  • Whole life: If you’re looking for lifelong coverage, then consider a whole life policy, sometimes called a permanent life plan. A smart approach is to get term insurance and make sure you’re covered now. During your policy term, you may often have the option to renew it or convert it into a permanent life plan.

A local ERIE agent can explain your options and help you decide what’s best for you.

5. What do you offer beyond the basics for homeowners insurance?

We get it: Your home is often the biggest investment you’ll make. It’s worth it to add on some extra protection to protect what you’ve worked so hard to achieve.

Ask your local agent about ERIE Secure Home Bundles, which allow you to expand your protection beyond our standard homeowner’s policy with coverage available for underground service lines, appliances and more.

6. We’re digital natives… why do we need a human insurance agent?

It makes sense to buy a lot of products online. Buying online is often easier – and sometimes more cost effective. But when it comes to insurance, a DIY online policy isn’t always the best choice. Because insurance protects the things you care about most, there are benefits to working with an insurance agent.

As an experienced local pro, an ERIE agent can answer your questions, help you understand what you really do (and don’t) need and talk you through things if you ever need to file a claim.

Still curious? See what made our list of 6 reasons why customers love working with a local ERIE agent.

GETTING MARRIED? GET A QUOTE WITH ERIE

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The Safest Cars of 2021

IIHS: The Safest Cars of 2021

For safety-conscious drivers, the 2021 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety TOP SAFETY PICK awards represent a wealth of choices.

Each year, the IIHS, a nonprofit research and education organization, conducts tests to determine which vehicles do the best job of protecting people in the most common kinds of crashes — front, side, rollover and rear. Vehicles must also score well in front crash prevention and headlights.

The IIHS awarded winners in 11 size categories, from small cars to large pickups. This year’s number of vehicles on the IIHS list increased by more than 50 percent over 2020, and the cars earning the premium TOP SAFETY PICK+ accolade more than doubled.

WHAT MAKES A TOP SAFETY PICK?

Almost every year, the IIHS slightly adjusts its criteria for vehicles to earn either TOP SAFETY PICK or TOP SAFETY PICK+ status. When establishing the criteria for the awards, the IIHS phases in new requirements gradually – first as criteria for the “plus” award, then later for the regular TOP SAFETY PICK award. This gives automakers time to plan ahead and adjust future designs.

Here are a few features you’ll find in this year’s top rated vehicles:

  • Headlight improvements: Starting last year, only vehicles with good or acceptable headlights across all trims and packages could earn TOP SAFETY PICK+ status. By keeping this standard, automakers responded by more doubling the vehicles that qualify.
  • Front crash prevention: Vehicles are not required to have standard front crash prevention to qualify for the awards, but it didn’t hurt any of the winners. All 49 TOP SAFETY PICK+ winners and 31 TOP SAFETY PICK winners have standard systems that meet the vehicle-to-vehicle requirement. And all but one of the “plus” picks also meet the prevention criterion with their standard systems.
  • Crashworthiness: Of course, all award winners need strong performance in all six IIHS crash tests. Last year, the IIHS required a higher standard of “good” in the passenger-side small overlap front test. (In 2019, the lower “acceptable” rating was sufficient to win an award.)

For more details on how IIHS crash tests work (and what they look for), visit the safety ratings page on the IIHS website.

THE 2021 TOP SAFETY PICK+ WINNERS

In all, 90 cars and SUVs earned TOP SAFETY PICK status, including 49 that achieved the elite “plus” distinction. This total represents a marked increase from 2020, when 64 models were named TOP SAFETY PICKs and 23 garnered plus designation.

Volvo paced the field with nine TOP SAFETY PICK+ awards. The Swedish automaker placed four models each in the midsize luxury car (S60, S60 Recharge, V60 and V60 Recharge) and midsize luxury SUV (XC 60, XC60 Recharge, XC90 and XC90 Recharge) categories, while its XC40 also earned the distinction in the small SUV class.

Hyundai Motor Group —which manufactures the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands — again led all automakers with 12 overall TOP SAFETY PICKS, including five pluses. The Hyundai Palisade and Nexo, Genesis G70 and G90, and the Kia K5 each earned top marks.

For the full list of winners and ratings, visit iihs.org/ratings.

INSURANCE FOR NEW AND USED CARS

Car shopping can represent the perfect time to reconsider your auto insurance. Here are a few related stories from our blog that might provide some helpful insight:

Whether you plan on purchasing a 2021 TOP SAFETY PICK, a different vehicle or are sticking with your current set of wheels, a local ERIE agent is ready to help you find the perfect coverage for you. Contact them today to start a conversation.

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How To Prevent Frozen Pipes

How To Prevent Frozen Pipes

Frigid winter temperatures can cause pipes to freeze – or even burst. Do you know how to tell if pipes are frozen? We’ve pulled together tips to help prevent frozen pipes and a list of suggestions for you to follow if they do freeze.

Pro tip: Know ahead of time how your homeowners insurance can kick in to help repair damage from a frozen and burst water pipe. Not sure if you’re covered? Talk to a local ERIE agent to find out.

SYMPTOMS OF FROZEN PIPES

One of the earliest signs of a frozen pipe is when no water comes out of your faucet when you turn it on. If you notice that, head first to the basement and check to see that the water is still turned on and that you don’t have a leak. Once you’ve confirmed these two things, continue your inspection to make sure one of your pipes has not burst. If your search reveals that your pipes are frozen but none have ruptured, you have two choices:

  • Call a plumber to help thaw your frozen pipes. Most times, this is a better idea if you don’t think you can safely thaw the pipes yourself, you don’t know where the frozen pipes are or you can’t access the frozen area.
  • Attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself. Be aware this option can be dangerous if not done correctly.

HOW TO FIX FROZEN PIPES

If you’re not an experienced DIY-er, it’s safer to defer this one to a professional. However, there are fast fixes you can try if you’re experienced with home maintenance work. If you attempt to thaw the frozen pipes yourself, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Keep your faucet open. Water and steam will be created during the thawing process, and your pipes need an opening to discharge this. Keeping the faucet open also allows for moving water to run through the pipe, which will expedite the thawing process.
  • Apply heat to the section of the pipe that is frozen. This can be done by wrapping an electronic heating pad around the pipe, heating the area with a hair dryer or both. If you lack either of these items, using towels soaked in hot water will help as well.  Remember, this is a temporary fix and the heating pad should not be left unattended to prevent a fire.
  • Know what not to do. Never use a blowtorch, propane or kerosene heaters, a charcoal stove or any other open flame device to thaw your frozen pipes. That presents a severe fire hazard. You should also avoid using a space heater unless you are sure the area is clear of any flammable material. Again, never leave the space heater unattended.
  • Continue applying heat until water flow returns to normal. Once you have successfully thawed the pipe, turn on other faucets in your home to check for any more frozen water pipes.
  • Take swift action if the frozen pipes are located inside an exterior wall. This is a serious situation when you should call a professional contractor, as repairs may involve cutting a hole in the wall toward the inside of the house to expose those pipes to warmer air.

HOW TO PREVENT FROZEN PIPES

While we can’t control the weather, there are things we can do to prevent pipes from freezing. To prevent pipes from freezing and causing major damage, follow these steps:

  • Drain water from pipes that are likely to freeze. This includes your swimming pool and sprinkler water supply lines.
  • Disconnect any hoses from the outside of your home, drain the hoses and store them in the garage. Make sure to close the indoor valves supplying these outdoor access points.
  • Insulate the area around vents and light fixtures. This helps prevent heat from escaping into the attic.
  • Seal any wall cracks. Be sure to pay careful attention to the areas around utility service lines.
  • Open kitchen cabinets. This allows the warm air to circulate around the pipes.
  • Keep the garage doors closed to protect water lines.
  • Allow your faucets to drip cold water on the coldest days. The movement will make it harder for the water to freeze.
  • Keep your thermostat at the same temperature day and night. Never let it fall below 55 degrees Fahrenheit when you leave your home.
  • Ensure you have proper seals on all doors and windows.
  • Place a 60-watt bulb in areas where you’re concerned about pipes freezing. Make sure there are no combustible materials near the bulb.

PROTECTION FROM FROZEN WATER PIPES

Frozen water pipes and the damage they can cause are a reality for thousands of people each year. That’s especially the case when you are at below freezing temperatures for an extended period of time.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety says a burst pipe can cause more than $5,000 in water damage. That’s because the damage can be extensive.

“We see about 2,000 claims per day during an average January winter,” says Chris Zimmer, senior vice president of claims for Erie Insurance. “A number of them are due to frozen water pipes.”

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Driving in Winter

How NOT to Drive in Winter Weather

Driving in WinterWinter driving has its challenges. But throw an inexperienced — or inconsiderate — driver into the mix, and your daily commute can get much more difficult.

It’s always aggravating when other drivers put you at risk. Getting stuck behind a driver who is spinning their tires or not paying attention isn’t just annoying… it’s dangerous.

Related: The 7 Biggest Winter Driving Myths, Debunked

Winter driving calls for quick decision making, patience and a little bit of know-how. Below you’ll find ways to spot a rookie winter driver — and how to avoid looking like one yourself:

6 COMMON MISTAKES OF WINTER DRIVERS

  1. Tailgating: Usually, drivers tailgate because they want the car in front of them to go faster. This is never OK, especially in the winter months. It takes longer to come to a stop in the winter, so you should always put more distance between you and the car ahead. Impatience on the road rarely pays off – tailgating just puts you and others at risk.
  2. Speeding: Speeding can get you into trouble quickly. Make sure you’re never driving faster than what is safe for the conditions. In snowy or icy conditions, that probably means driving below the speed limit. The faster you’re going, the more likely you are to lose control or slide into another car. Expect traffic to move a little slower in the winter and allow extra time to get to your destination.
  3. Getting stuck: Driving through deep snow may sound like fun, but chances are it will leave your tires spinning. For your own safety, know when to stay off the road altogether and drive carefully to avoid losing traction in the first place. After all, getting stuck is easy – getting out isn’t.
  4. Ice on the windshield: If your car has snow or ice on the windshield, it can be tempting to save time by letting your wipers or defroster remove it as you drive. But driving without full visibility is like driving blindfolded. Use a snow brush or ice scraper to clear your windshield entirely every time you get behind the wheel.  (And don’t just clear a little “window” you can see through!)
  5. Snow on the roof: If you’ve ever driven behind someone with snow on their roof, you know it can be an accident waiting to happen. If your car is covered in snow, take the time to clear your roof before you tackle the windows. You’ll keep snow from falling in your field of vision and from hitting the drivers behind you.
  6. Driving with high beams on: This can be frustrating in any condition, but some people think that high beams will increase your vision during whiteouts or heavy snowfall. In fact, fog lights and low beams will do much better. Learn what to do if you get stuck driving in a whiteout.

Just like other people’s driving, winter weather can be unpredictable. But even the safest, most experienced drivers can get into an accident. That’s why it’s important to have the right insurance to protect you and your vehicle. Learn about the extras available with every Erie Insurance auto policy.

WANT MORE TIPS FOR WINTER DRIVING?

Check out these related articles:

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Employee Performance Reviews

Employee Performance Reviews

But I thought I was doing so well!

I’ve been here for 30 years. You’re just telling me this now?

Susan comes in late every day, and she’s never been written up. What gives?

Let’s face it: If you’re a business owner or a manager, employee performance appraisals can be uncomfortable. No one likes to receive a “surprise” evaluation that they’re not performing well. What’s more, if you ignore a small issue with an employee now, it could eventually snowball into a bigger problem later… at worst, it could result in an employment lawsuit.

5 WAYS TO ADDRESS POOR PERFORMANCE WITH AN EMPLOYEE

Having an established and documented employee performance review can help your business avoid costly discrimination lawsuits. If an employee is underperforming, here’s how to handle it.

  • Be direct and honest. First things first: A poor performance review should never come as a “surprise.” Good managers address poor performance directly when it happens—and always with transparency and empathy.
  • Be consistent. Consistency is key to avoiding claims of discrimination. Make sure you’re holding all your employees to the same standard. For example: If you discipline a low-performing employee for being late, don’t look the other way if a high-performing employee comes in late. (Related: Are you covered when an employee claims harassment or discrimination?)
  • Keep it objective. Hold your employees to an objective standard that they know and have agreed to—for example, an attendance policy or employee handbook. Ensure there’s a legitimate business reason for discipline and avoid the temptation to provide overly subjective feedback.
  • Write it down. Document every action you take during the disciplinary process, including verbal warnings. Writing it down gives you credibility and lets the employee know the specifics of how to improve their performance and what consequences are at stake if they don’t. For serious or final warnings, ask your employee to sign and date the document and add a space for them to comment with feedback.
  • Know when to ask for help. If you feel over your head, reach out to a trusted mentor who has handled employee conduct issues before. And if things get really complicated, contact a human resources or legal professional who knows the ins and outs of employment law.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MY BUSINESS AGAINST DISCRIMINATION OR HARASSMENT LAWSUITS?

Imagine a worst-case scenario: An employee sues your business for sexual harassment or discrimination (for example, on the basis of age, sex, race or disability). Unfortunately, these types of lawsuits do happen and even if the allegations are found to be groundless, responding to charges like these can cost thousands of dollars.

You can help protect your business by adding Employment Practices Liability (EPL) coverage to your business insurance policy. Most standard EPL insurance policies offer a measure of protection against lawsuits brought against your business by employees alleging wrongful acts (sexual harassment or discrimination) or wrongful termination. You can purchase and add the coverage to your business policy as an endorsement. Learn more about our custom solutions for business insurance.

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